Reviews

The Man Who Knew Too Little

3

There is something about The Man Who Knew Too Little which feels very familiar. It's a comedy about mistaken identity, it's got several duck ponds worth of Russian spies and British agents, and the hero is a naïve blundering fool who stumbles through deadly peril, saves the day and gets the girl.

This diminutive - but surprisingly bearable - farce is obviously intended as a tribute to movies like North By Northwest, The Man With One Red Shoe and the Pink Panther series. No doubt the success of Austin Powers convinced the studio that another spy spoof would be a good idea, although this effort lacks the rampant psychedelic randiness which sustained the Mike Myers feature.

That said, The Man Who Knew Too Little is a mildly amusing, slap-stick-driven jaunt which draws the occasional guffaw when it really tries. Bill Murray is on form (although he looks very worn out), and the Theater Of Life device actually works quite well.

Murray's character, Wallace, thinks it's all a big role-playing game and congratulates everyone (call girls, government ministers, assassins, corpses) on their impressive performances. But, to everybody else - who in turn are unaware that he's unaware that it's for real - he's a crazy freelance hitman, with very little concern for his own, or anyone else's, lives. This leads to a few chuckle-out-loud sequences (one of which involves two Russian agents, some nasal spray and a game of Ker-Plunk) and a film which can best be seen as a `light Sunday lunch' comedy.

It's by no means flawless: the supporting cast are desperately dull, while the set-up and denouement are rushed and messy. But, while it could be mistaken for another Blame It On The Bellboy, The Man Who Knew To Little is actually as entertaining as the Inspector Clouseau comedies it emulates.

Verdict:

As a small-scale comedy, The Man Who Knew Too Little is an adequate success. If you're looking for non-stop laughs then it will let you down, but, if you've got a soft spot for Peter Sellers-themed slapstick, you may just find it fairly amusing.

Film Details

  • 12
  • UK Theatrical Release Date: May 15th 1998